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Dirk Bogarde

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Dirk Bogarde (1921-99)

Major Sir Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde, soldier, actor and author.

Born in West Hampstead, London, of mixed Flemish, Dutch and Scottish ancestry, Bogarde served in WW2 after being commissioned in to the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) in 1943.

He reached the rank of Major and served in both the European and Pacific theatres as an intelligence officer. In 1945, he was one of the first Allied officers to reach the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany - an experience that had the most profound effect on him and about which he found it difficult to speak for many years afterward.

His experience of Belsen left him with a deep-seated hostility towards Germany and its inhabitants and wrote that he would 'disembark from an elevator rather than ride with a German'.

Bogarde was also a staunch proponent of euthanasia directly due to his wartime experiences:

My views were formulated as a 24-year-old officer in Normandy. On one occasion the Jeep ahead hit a mine. Next thing I knew, there was this chap in the long grass beside me. A bloody bundle, shrapnel-ripped, legless, one arm only. The one arm reached out to me, white eyeballs wide, unseeing, in the bloody mask that had been a face. A gurgling voice said, 'Help. Kill me!' With shaking hands I reached for my small pouch to load my revolver. I had to look for my bullets - by which time somebody else had already 'taken care' of him. I heard the shot. I still remember that gurgling sound. A voice pleading for death.

During the war I saw more wounded men being 'taken care of' than I saw being rescued. Because sometimes you were too far from a dressing station, sometimes you couldn't get them out. And they were pumping blood or whatever; they were in such a wreck, the only thing to do was to shoot them. And they were, so don't think they weren't. That hardens you: You get used to the fact that it can happen. And that it is the only sensible thing to do.

Bogarde is widely regarded as one of the finest actors the nation had produced and is one of the pantheon of screen idols that made an entire genre of war films what they were... despite him Batting for Middlesex. Verdict? Nails!